July 20th, 2024

Men’s Sheds organization looking to expand into Lethbridge

By Lethbridge Herald on April 13, 2024.

Punch Jackson, vice-president of Men's Sheds in Edmonton, speaks to a small crowd gathered at the Lethbridge Seniors Centre Organization to discuss the creation of a relatively unknown men's organization.

Delon Shurtz
Lethbridge Herald

Men, is retired life got you down? Are you bored, looking for something to do other than sitting on a couch with a bag of chips while watching endless reruns on TV?

Men’s Sheds may be literally and figuratively just what the doctor ordered.

This isn’t the backyard shed that’s full of rusty tools, the lawmower that needs an oil change and telltale signs that mice have been living there all winter. In fact, Men’s Sheds isn’t even a shed; it’s more of a place, anyplace where men can gather to talk, have coffee and make new friends, learn new skills and work on community projects together. And it’s not just for retirees, although that’s the focus of the worldwide organization.

A Men’s Sheds may be coming to Lethbridge, and Wednesday at the Lethbridge Senior Citizens Organization, the vice-president of Men’s Sheds Alberta, Punch Jackson, urged the creation of a local organization to add to the 3,000 Men’s Shed’s already around the world. All that’s needed is a location, a coffee pot, and a purpose.

“Some groups might decide that they’re going to be bike shed; they’re going to rescue and restore bikes for kids,” Jackson said moments before speaking to a small gathering at the LSCO. “It could be a group of guys who want to focus on woodworking, and they might do projects for the community. It could be anything.”

Jackson said an 86-year-old man started a Men’s Shed in Edmonton, but because of the member’s ages, they didn’t have any intentions of using power tools, so they put together puzzles.

While puzzles may have been the activity that attracted like-minded men to that Shed, there is more to it than that.

“The guy that was running it said to me, “you don’t know the kind of conversations we have around a puzzle table.’ “

Jackson said the men stand shoulder to shoulder around the table and discuss their interests and things that may be bothering them or with which they may need help.

And it’s not a beer-guzzling good ‘ole boys’ club. Men of all ages with time on their hands go to Men’s Sheds; men who are new to a community, men struggling with retirement, men who have lost their social network or lost their partner, and men who may just be underfoot at home.

There are 100 Sheds in Canada, and 27 in Alberta but that’s a drop in the bucket compared to other countries. The first organization began in Australia 30 years ago, and now there are more than 1,200 of them in that country.

Internationally the Men’s Sheds have focused on anything from coffee meetings to full-blown workshops. Some Sheds focus on learning, sculpting, carving, painting, sketching and even cooking. Others fix bicycle for kids or restore furniture. The agenda is determined by the members.

“We’re in a big push right now to get more sheds across Canada,” Jackson said. “The awareness level of Sheds is very low.”

Establishing a Men’s Sheds does more than provide a space for men to connect, share skills and support each other. It also fosters a sense of community and promotes well-being.

“It gives (men) a reason to get up in the morning.”

Ironically, the Men’s Sheds in Australia was started by a woman. She was concerned about her own father and the skyrocketing rates of depression and suicide during tough economic times, and she recognized the therapeutic value of men who gathered in garages to work on projects. She got a double garage, filled it with a bunch of tools, and convinced some men to invite other men “to fix something,” like lawnmowers.

“After they were done with their day, the lawnmowers weren’t fixed, but all the guys were talking, all the guys kept coming back, every week they came back, and they started to see their attitudes were changing. They were becoming more positive, they were happier. So that is what they called the first Men’s Shed.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the organization can go online to https://albertamenssheds.ca, or email albertamenssheds@gmail.com.

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